The third world, with its astronomical debts, seems terminally bankrupt. The truth is that much of the third world, particularly in Africa, is at best only marginally better off after two decades of loans in the name of enlightened self-interest. Oil prices are partly to blame. But so is the West's silly disposal of public funds to politicians more interested in ideology, and their own power, than in welfare and economics. Far from shoring up the economies of many undeveloped states, loans from abroad have caused political corruption, economic confusion, and greater dependence on charity.
On the other hand, with a minimum of aid and a maximum of really enlightened know-how, Japan and Nationalist China (both third world countries a generation or so ago) are today major economic forces. The lesson appears to be that what is required is not merely money, but also better planned cooperation; genuine educational aid, and a more appropriate form of developmental assistance with less expectation of immediate economic returns . . . especially to the Western donors.
President Reagan is probably right, in more senses than one, when he insists on more private enterprise being associated with third world loans. Zimbabwe shows tenuous signs of succeeding where so many before have failed . . . mainly because Mr. Robert Mugabe is currently prepared to subjugate Marxist aspirations to economic realities. Zimbabwe still has a basically free enterprise system. There lies its hope.